Ashington head coach Ian Skinner saw his outfit record by far their most convincing away performance of the season with a 5-0 drubbing of Consett at the Belle View Stadium on Saturday.
And afterwards, Skinner admitted that he had challenged the players prior to them leaving the dressing rooms.
He said: “I usually like to keep what’s said in the dressing room in the dressing room, but ahead of the game we talked very little until shortly before going out when we told the players that the league table doesn’t lie and that we are the 13th best team in the division.
“I challenged them to have a look around and see the quality of players we have in our squad, and said to them, ‘If you think we are only the 13th best team then you are mistaken and you need to go out and prove it’.
“ I don’t think we could have asked for a better response because it was a five star showing in every respect.
“Could I see it coming? Certainly not a 5-0 victory. Ccould I see us winning here? Yes, because we have got a talented squad of players and the issue we have is that we haven’t played to our potential this season, and that has let us down.
“Scoring the first goal today certainly helped, and I can’t remember too many games recently where we have gone ahead.
“We usually concede and leave ourselves chasing the game, which makes it difficult
“I looked around the team for a reaction when Andrew Johnson scored, and they all raced across to him and there was a little spark.
“A few weeks ago I also challenged the players about being better in the final third, and they certainly were today.
“We were delighted to go in at the interval 3-0 up and we told the players that their reaction to what we had asked had been first class.
“However, it was only half-time and I said it will only be first class if we come in after 90 minutes with a victory and asked them for a repeat showing second half.
“I questioned some of the lads’ work rate at North Shields, but I couldn’t do that today.
“There was 11 players plus a substitute working for each other, and it was typified by Kyle Downey, who has gone and pressed a hopeful ball in midfield, a ball he should never win, but which he did, which allows him to run through and lay it on a plate for Damien Stevens to tap in for our third goal.
“That showed for me that if you work hard collectively as a unit, you will win football matches, and we should be winning more than we have done this season.
“We said ‘well done’ to the lads, but that was one of 11 challenges [number of games remaining] because today’s result would mean nothing if we don’t take it into the North Shields game at our place on Tuesday.”
Skinner was full of praise for hat-trick hero Ben Harmison, but was quick to applaud the other members in the 12 who participated.
“I thought up top Ben Harmison was brilliant,” he said.
“He’s come back into the side and scored a hat-trick, and you can’t argue with that.
“We were brave playing with three centre forwards [Harmison, Johnson and Stevens] who between them scored five goals, but we shouldn’t underestimate the lads behind them because they have worked hard too.
“The goal scorers take all the glory at times but it’s a team game and the others have done equally as well.”
Ex-Collier Josh Gray featured for Consett in the early stages, but Skinner said: “We had a little game plan for Josh because he is someone we know very well.
“If you let him get a head of steam up he can cause you problems, so we asked James Taylor to get close to him on his first touch and try and stop him getting that space in which to run into, and we did that over the 90 minutes.
“James came in at half-time and gave the score on how many times he had curtailed Josh and that’s what you want, people taking on personal battles.”
Skinner concluded: “All credit to the players who were fantastic today.
“We gave them a specific game plan when we had the ball and they have carried it out to the letter.
“People get hung up on systems and formations, but the way we played today is our best way of setting up, and it showed.
“Our keeper Conor Grant has walked into the dressing room cock-a-hoop with his first clean sheet in 21 games since we beat Heaton Stannington 2-0 in the League Cup in early November – so that was another pleasing aspect on a very satisfying afternoon.”